I just put my head down and keep going

Former Bishop David Sheppard never shied away from trouble or controversy. Here he talks to David Charters about how he coped.


IN THE old times, ladies of a certain age and style gathered for elevenses in the cafe on the upper floor of the department store, beneath the slow whirr of fans like those used in French colonial Africa.


And one morning, the fug was pierced by a keener glint than usual from their eyes. Woman’s Own, the magazine of recipes, romance, advice on heavy petting and sensible fashions, had signed up a new columnist, a handsome young cleric who was known to swing a mean willow stick. [i.e. at cricket — C.F.]


But it was the age of skiffle and the angry young men, the tide of change seemed irresistible and before long the magazine’s writer, David Sheppard, was filling his column inches with concerns about the poor, the dispossessed, the immigrants, the lonely, and the new youth which seemed to have no direction or purpose.


Now he is sitting in the comfortable lounge of his home on the Caldy/West Kirby border, his splendid claret slippers, on the carpet, looking to a garden lush and green, which slopes towards the River Dee.

In his hands is a copy of his autobiography, Steps Along Hope Street: My Life in Cricket, the Church and the Inner City.

Yes, these are the hands that clasped the rubbered handle of a cricket bat in one of the most successful England teams in living memory. But they are also the hands that have been pressed in prayer, fingertips reaching for heaven, as he has grappled with the inequities of a society that can give so much to some and so little to others.

The Right Reverend Lord Sheppard of Liverpool, who prefers to be known simply as Bishop David, was born into a moderately privileged background and was sent to boarding schools, Northcliffe House School in Bognor Regis and then Sherborne, where he was to feel the bite of the cane swished by the prefect, nicknamed ‘Bloody Erb’ for obvious reasons.

But young Sheppard had been sucked into the system and he was to deliver a number of beatings himself, though he judged them all to be “fair”.

Undoubtedly, there are those who would argue that Bishop David was the boy who had it all – good looks, athleticism, a finely-tuned intellect which carried him to Cambridge, and the composure bestowed on him by class and background.

But that’s not the way he sees it as he talks of his years in the church, starting as a curate in St Mary’s Islington, London, in 1957, where he was warden of the Mayflower Family Centre in Camden Town. He remained in London as Bishop of Woolwich from 1969 to 1975. It was then that he was appointed Bishop of Liverpool, joining the Catholic Archbishop Derek Worlock in the the country’s most celebrated dog-collared double-act, marching with the poor and downtrodden as their city took the full brunt of the recession which stained the Government of Margaret Thatcher.


Steps Along Hope Street by David Sheppard is published by Hodder and Stoughton at £17.99.



Corpun file 10029


Daily Telegraph, London, 26 October 2002

Your shout

By Andrew Gimson


Charles Clarke, the new Education Secretary, should concentrate on raising standards of discipline in schools, if necessary by reintroducing corporal punishment.

This was the strong advice to the new minister in the Gatehouse pub, opposite Highgate School in north London, the public school where Mr Clarke was educated.

A pensioner described the dreadful consequences for people like himself when discipline broke down in the local schools: “I notice that most of the children here in Highgate are very well behaved but it’s not like that where I live, in Highbury.

“When the schools are in session it’s like Animal Farm. The children attack each other in wolf-packs. It becomes totally horrific.

“As an old age pensioner, you walk down there and you just get insulted. You’re expected to move out of the children’s way. They shout at me out of the school windows.

“During the school term, when you walk down to Highbury Corner, you have to suffer the humiliation of these louts. Yet when Rhodes Boyson was headmaster of Highbury Grove School, they were absolute angels.”

After serving as headmaster of various schools from 1955 to 1974, Sir Rhodes (as he became in 1987) was a Tory MP from 1974 until 1997.

“Pity he isn’t around now,” the pensioner said. “He would make a great education minister. It was obvious the man knew what he was doing. He kept everybody he worked with in line.”

When asked how Mr Clarke should set about restoring discipline, many members of the older generation said they knew from personal experience that corporal punishment was the answer. But it was clear none of them imagined for one moment that Mr Clarke would be capable of such radicalism.

Considerable sympathy was expressed for Mr Clarke’s predecessor, Estelle Morris, who resigned this week.

Her recent decision to back the expulsion of two pupils who had made death threats against a teacher, which was widely criticised by some commentators who said she had no right to interfere in the case, was warmly approved of in the Gatehouse pub.

One elderly woman said: “She took a stand on discipline in schools and I think she was in the right there. She was instinctively standing up for teachers and the majority of parents and pupils.”

A local government worker said: “My neighbour told me there were pupils at her primary school who were said to be suffering from attention deficit disorder who went and smashed up the head teacher’s room.

“Why should that happen? Charles Clarke will have to think about respect for teachers, respect for the profession. Why should teachers have to put up with children wrecking the school?”



Corpun file 10074


The Courier, Dundee, 30 October 2002

Getting The ‘Belt’ Could Now Be Worth A Fortune

DO YOU have a bonded three tail, or a near new HX double tail? If so, they could be worth a fortune!

And yet in the 100 years up to 1982 the sight of either lying on a desk struck fear into the heart of Scottish pupils, for both are types of the renowned, or infamous depending on which end you were at, Lochgelly Tawse.

The belt, the strap or the tawse first came into favour with Scottish teachers — and parents — in the 1880s and remained in use until corporal punishment was abolished in schools just over 100 years later.

At one time Glasgow Corporation even provided their teachers with a tawse.

Now the surviving 28 or 30 inches of leather, either two or three tailed and of varying weight from L to XH, are collectors’ items, and with the numbers steadily decreasing, the tawse, which made its mark by coming down, is going up — in price.

“A bonded double tail, uncracked and in one piece, could be worth almost four figures,” said Mr Neil Rankine, of the Church Antique, Crieff.

The centre also houses a stand specialising in old school memorabilia, which is now run by Ms Lorraine Twigg.

Her spokesman, Mr Rankine, said interest in collecting the Lochgelly Tawse had been growing recently, and that belts which used to go under the hammer for £2 or less now make three figure prices — as the centre found when it became engaged in a bidding battle at an auction in Kinbuck.

“That tawse, not a particularly rare type, went for around £125,” he said.

He found later he had been bidding against a dealer who sells school memorabilia on the internet.

The much-sought-after bonded belt was the result of a foot-and-mouth outbreak in the 1960s which affected the supply of thick leather used by the Lochgelly firm, which for more than 100 years produced the Lochgelly Tawse — the Rolls-Royce of chastisement.

“The thick leather required for belts was not available, so the firm tried bonding two thin belts together,” Mr Rankine explained.

Unfortunately, over the years the glue holding the layers together hardened and cracked, and intact bonded belts are now hard to come by.

“We have standing orders from collectors who are willing to pay up to a four-figure price for such belts in good condition,” he said.

The first Lochgelly Tawse were produced by coachbuilder Robert Philp, Lochgelly, and this name was stamped on the 30-inch leathers, made originally from harness leather.

Later belts were stamped Robert Philp & Son, and later George Dick, an employee, took over the business as a saddler — although still producing the Lochgelly Tawse in its different weights.

The stamp of George Dick was later changed to George Dick & Son and it was this name which was on the last of those produced before the belt was banned following a European Court ruling.

“We act as brokers for a growing number of dealers,” Mr Rankine said.

New, unused tawses are in demand, and even more so if they are still in their wrappings.

Collectors try to get every type out.

Pre-1910, the Lochgelly Tawse had a slit in the top (teacher’s) end for hanging the implement up with, but after that a round hole was punched in the leather for this purpose.

Many teachers who call at the centre and see the price a good quality tawse can fetch today are flabbergasted.

It’s not the first time an older teacher has recalled that his or her first belt cost them half a crown (12.5p for our younger readers).

Although the Lochgelly products were the best known there were, other makers, Brownlee of Banff and Drysdale of Dundee among them, produced their own tawse, most proudly stamped with the maker’s name.

“There is not a great number of them left,” Mr Rankine explained, “and we get maybe three or four a month.

“As well as buying them, we will also act as broker for the collectors we have on our books,” he explained.

Other school memorabilia dealt with at the antique centre includes desks, with the old teacher’s lectern desk being in demand, school wall-maps and even glass inkpots and some blackboards.